Maple Leafs Putting League On Notice!

With the March 3rd NHL tradeline fast approaching. The Toronto Maple Leafs made a point of getting an early jump on the rest of the league. The first major move came just 10 days ago when they went out an acquired Ryan O’Rielly and Noel Acciari from St Louis in exchange for Mikhail Abramov, Adam Gaudette, Toronto’s first round pick in 2023, Ottawa’s third round pick in 2023 (Acquired in the Matt Murray trade) as well as Toronto’s second round pick in 2024. Toronto also received prospect Josh Pillar from Minnesota as part of the deal as Minnesota was brought in to help retain 25 percent of O’Rielly’s contract. Which Minnesota was compensated with Toronto’s fourth round pick in 2025.

That trade alone was more then enough to get things buzzing in Leaf land. O’Rielly’s resume speaks for itself. Three time All Star, Conn Smythe Award winner, Selke Trophy, Lady Byng winner. He is well regarded for his work ethic and is a respected figure in the league. Although his production is down this year (16 G, 9 A, 25 PTS in 40 Games prior to trade. Stats courtesy He has missed some time due to a broken foot as well as St Louis had not played to expectations both of these reasons explain for the dip statistically.

Courtesy of Fresh Hockey

Acciari is not just a “throw in” with this deal. Acciari is a familiar face to Leafs Nation as he was a long time foe as he was a member of the Boston Bruins who fell short to the Blues in 2019. Acciari brings a hard nosed style as he does not shy away from the physical aspect of the game. He is also great at the faceoff dot (53.5% at the time of acquistion). He also has the ability to chip in offensively. This trade with St Louis made Toronto one of the deepest teams down the middle being able to deploy a potential three headed monster of Matthews,Tavares and O’Rielly. This moved Kampf down to the fourth line and they now have the luxury of boosting one of the best defensive shutdown lines that can own the opposition in the face off circle and give them fits.

However there was a feeling that GM Kyle Dubas was not done his work. Given the other teams in the Atlantic making their moves in preparation for the playoffs. There was many including myself that felt this team needed to upgrade the backend. Ask and you shall receive as Toronto went out on Monday and acquired Defensemen Jake McCabe as well as forward Sam Lafferty plus a pair of conditional fifth round picks in 2024 and 2025 from Chicago for Joey Anderson, Pavel Gogolev, Toronto’s first round pick in 2025 (conditional) as well as Toronto’s second round pick in 2026.

The second transaction addressed the need to find a physical defensive shutdown down defensemen to fill the void left by the loss of Jake Muzzin. Jake McCabe has been one of the few bright spots on the Blackhawks this season and is one of the only plus rated players this season (currently +7 stats courtesy of

Courtesy of Fresh Hockey

He brings a snarl and sound defensive game (122 hits, 115 blocked shots while averaging 19:29 of ice time. Stats courtesy of The 29 year old Eau Claire, WI native still has two more years left on his contract after this. The kicker is the Maple Leafs are only on the hook for half of his contract. That’s only two million dollars for the next two seasons after this one.

Also adding more depth upfront in this deal with Sam Lafferty. The 27 year old Hollisday, PA native currently has has 10 goals and 11 assists in 51 games played thus far this season. He is versatile as he can play both center and wing. He currently boosts 52.4% in the faceoff circle. He has a some sand paper in his game (94 hits), He blocks shots (21) while only averaging 15:07 of ice time.

Courtesy of Fresh Hockey

The Maple Leafs did pay a big price for these two transactions, however it was primarily draft capital. Yes trading all the draft picks involved may come have buyers remorse down the road as those picks may eventfully turn out to be something great. However draft picks are nothing guaranteed. The Maple Leafs made all these major transactions without trading any of their top tier prospects. All the speculation involving the price tags that the club would have to part with the likes of top prospects Matthew Knies, Fraser Minten or Topi Niemela. Toronto didn’t even part with a member of the current NHL roster. This is masterful work by Toronto’s management group.

They keep the prospect capital intact and instead parted with fringe players that weren’t likely to make it on this roster any time soon. All this work accomplished and they still have a roster slot open to still potentially sign Matthew Knies and bring him in for the playoff run. Although given all the additions up front it may not be necessary. But if they decide to they have the luxury to do so if they choose.

As the dust settles on this most recent trade, the Maple Leafs have certainly pushed their chips to the center of the table and put the league on notice that they are going all in. Dubas and Co. are doubling down on their belief in this group by augmenting this roster with the pieces required for them to make a deep run this spring.

With only a few days remaining before the trade deadline the heavy lifting for the management group is done. There is going to be a transaction or maybe two as the Leafs need to shed some salary to activate Matt Murray off the LTIR. But the major leg work has been completed. It is now time for this group to do their part as management has done everything they can. Buckle up Leafs Nation things are getting exciting. I for one can’t wait.